All the Feels

One day I decided to apply for a job and chase a dream.

Scratch that. I procrastinated for 2 years because I was scared of failing. I stuck a toe in the water, but got my teeth kicked in. A year later, I carried around an application in my car for a week waiting. Waiting for confidence, the right moment, or whatever. I was just plain scared. I don’t “look” like a trainer. I’m not 20 and a size 2. But I filled out that application.

While filling it out, one of the fitness directors came over to chat with me. He took a chance on a stay at home mom with a dream. Shortly after I started teaching spin classes again, I was hired as a personal trainer. Had it not been for this initial conversation, among many other circumstances leading up to it, I would probably still be waiting. Waiting for confidence, waiting to feel like I’d “earned” the right to chase this dream.

Now I’m over a year in, and as the minions are closing out this year of school, I am stepping away from the personal training and will be continuing with only the group training. I still get to do work I love, but I will have more time for my family. It is certainly a bittersweet transition as I look back on this year and these wonderful people I am lucky enough to work with everyday.

Clients have lost weight and they’ve indeed gotten stronger. But it’s the non-scale victories that give me goosebumps, makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end, and feel all the feels.

“I took down my daughter while wrestling. She got up and said, ‘Wow mom! You’re strong!'”

Transforming from “I’m not comfortable in a bathing suit” to “Look at me. Who cares? I don’t care. I work.”

Going from: “I’m nervous about trying out for the team. What if I’m not good enough?” to “Coach singled me out and said, ‘Do it like her – she’s the hardest worker here!'” grinning as she relays what coach said  because she moved through the fear of the unknown and did something scary, and is excelling at it.

Chatting at the end of a spin class about how so much of fitness is not about the physical. Letting new people know that, “it’s hard at first, but keep coming back. It’s the sitting in the mental stuff and working through it. Clearing out the can’t and bringing in the CAN.” I got to watch as others spoke up about what fitness has done for them, what it means to them.

Being texted pictures with the caption: “I bought a new swimsuit and I feel amazing in it! Thank you!”

Being shown pictures with ear to ear grins instead of hiding behind the camera, or behind other people.

“Oh! I love that TRX. I can’t wait to tell my husband what I did today! That was so hard. But I did it!” – 65 year old client.

Laughing with clients when they say they hate me as they smile at me and roll their eyes. (But yet they keep coming back…)

“I can’t believe I made it through that class! You never make it easy. You tell me what I need to hear, even if I don’t like it at the time.”

“I’m signing up for my first 5k. I can’t wait!”

“I haven’t done a headstand in forever! It’s kind of scary to be upside down,” she said giggling. “But I did it!”

“I’m off of blood pressure and diabetes meds! All gone!”

“I almost walked out. It was so tough. But when you said, ‘We aren’t quitters in this room’ I knew I could do it. Thank you! I’m so glad I stuck it out!”

“It took me 12 weeks, but I can now stand up every time you do and keep up in spin! I leave here floating!”

“Can I get in an extra session with you this week? This is SO fun!”

“I just feel so good. Not only do I feel better, my clothes fit better, but I realize how bad I felt before. Four months ago, I was such a different person. And the person I am today was screaming to get out.”

Being a witness to the deep stuff that tends to happen – the hard stuff. Being thanked for doing my job. A job that enables me to witness courage, to witness determination, to witness stomping fear in the face. Being humbled by the stories of these amazingly strong people. “Today I was able to take off my own shirt without help, I’m getting stronger and my balance is better,” a client (who happens to be recovering from an accident that has her in a wheelchair) told me.

“I have hope again.”

These are just a few of the things I will never, ever forget.

I’ve been told, “I hear you in my head when I’m working out now. Ugh!”

I remember saying that to my trainer. (I still hear her screaming at me “DON’T QUIT! QUIT QUITTING ON YOURSELF!” You can check out her awesome self at DumBell Fitness!)

I know well those voices that propel us further when we just want to give up. I’m humbled and beyond grateful for the opportunity to be that voice for others, if only for this season. While my voice may be stuck in their heads, their strength, their tenacity, and their willingness to learn will forever be in mine.

Here’s to the next chapter!

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Brain Bombs and Power

I fired off an email to a friend/mentor of mine after having an off week. In training people, it is much the same as in training yourself. There are excuses, days where you just aren’t feeling it, and many, many qualifiers. Qualifiers typically go something like this:

Client: “I wish I could lose weight faster. I’m working out regularly. I’m eating right. I just don’t get it. Why is the weight not coming off?”

Me: “Talk to me about diet. What does a typical day look like?”

Client: “I eat a great breakfast and I’m getting a lot more veggies in,”

Pause.

Me: Silence. Waiting for it.

Client: “…but, I did have just one ____________ (fill in the blank with whatever food they currently deem as ‘bad’) then I went out for so-and-so’s birthday and it would have been rude to not have at least a little piece of cake. My kid had a bad day so we went out for ice-cream to cheer him up.”

Blah, blah, blah. All of the reasons why I didn’t do what I said I was going to do. There is always a “but…” That’s the qualifier.

We then have a great conversation about moderation, how the turtle wins the race every time I read The Tortoise and the Hare. We discuss that foods need no moral judgement. Food is neither good nor bad. It just is. Will some food give you indigestion? Yep. Will others give you energy? Yep. Will still others spike your blood sugar and give you a crash later? You bet. But food isn’t moral. It just is. While we are at it – you are not a dog. Mind blowing, right? You are not “good” because you stuck to a stupid diet. You are likewise not “bad” because you didn’t. People who obtain AND maintain health over the long term do not subscribe to a good/bad philosophy when it comes to food or themselves.

The email I sent described the realization that as a trainer, I cannot walk this journey for anyone else. I’m a signpost holder. I can show you the how, but the doing has to be done solo. I can want it for you. (I WANT IT SO BAD FOR EVERYONE! It feels incredible to be comfortable in your own skin and to have energy and strength to get through the day!) Ultimately, we each have to walk the path for ourselves. 

Do you ever encounter people that say something and it’s like, “Whoa. Mind completely blown”? Usually it’s something profound, simple and very direct. I feel fortunate to have a few mind-blowers in my life. The mentor I sent the email to had this to add, “I also don’t allow any clients to give me credit for their health and fitness successes. Never allow them to be in the position to give their power away. They did the work, they take the credit.”

Brain bomb.

Mind blown.

So simple, but very profound.

Getting healthy and adapting new habits isn’t easy. I get that. It doesn’t come naturally for me either. But whether I succeed or I take a detour or two, the power is in me.

And you. You hold the power to do what you want. 

Whether it’s fat loss, fitness, parenting, or whatever else – we hold the power to choose.

Success or detours are entirely in YOUR hands.

Body Image and Progress Pictures

When first embarking on this fitness ride 5 years ago Facebook was still (fairly) new and smartphones had been out for a while, but I didn’t own one. I remember taking pictures on a flip phone when my 6 year old was born. People didn’t edit profile pics and use fun filters like Instagram like we all do today. None of these are bad things, but it was just a little bit different.

When losing 50 pounds, I snapped pictures all the time. It was so fun being surrounded by people on the same parallel fitness journey, we supported each other, and it was amazing to see our progress via these quick pictures. So often when we start taking our fitness journeys and our health seriously, those successes are not always reflected on the scale. The camera gives a tangible, visual affirmation that changes are happening regardless of weight. Pictures are powerful.

Lori's Before with Jen and Katy

20130211-053344.jpgSee You Laters and Welcome Back! Photo Fun! Warrior Dash 2012 - Professional PicsScan 2015-2-3 0002Lori Dec 2011 After working out for 6 months at DBFPhoto on 4-23-15 at 9.34 AM #2

So powerful, in fact, that they can often send the wrong message. When we look longingly at other people’s physiques, it sets us up for all kinds of disordered thinking. “Oh, if I had her legs (or chest, or arms, or rear or whatever) then I would be happy with my body.” Or worse, it sets us up to critique others because, you know, it’s just some picture on the internet.

I came across this today:

Powerful stuff.

This is stuff that I’ve been ruminating about for a while now. Do progress pictures blasted all over social media really help anyone? On one hand, it’s INCREDIBLE to see real results when you work so hard for them! It’s great showing the progress. On the other hand, does my picture inspire someone else? That has been my intent in sharing the journey.

But not every body is the same.

Genetics, height, build, age, gender, stress levels, support systems, medical history, and so much more contribute to a body’s ability to gain muscle, maintain muscle, and/or lose weight.  If two people eat the exact same diet, exercise the exact same way – they will end up with 2 different results: they are two different people. Again, does my progress picture really help anyone but me see those changes? I suspect probably not. That is in part why this is the first time in a long time that I’ve shared body progress pictures. Who does it really help? We are so much more than just our shell. We are souls, we have minds, we have feelings – we just happen to live in a body.

As a trainer, I know the way I appear is essentially my business card. I get that. I also understand that what it takes to be a figure competitor or professional body builder is not something I am capable of, nor do I have the desire. (Not knocking those things – that’s awesome if that’s your goal. That’s just not my bag.) My niche, and where I feel I have a voice, is the everyday person looking to feel better in their skin. To not be tired before noon each day. To have the energy to lead an active and healthy life and not sit on the sidelines missing out on really living.

When we gaze at a drastic before and after photo, it gives us hope. It plants the seed of possibility. That is a good thing to some extent, provided it’s not a sales pitch and the photos are not altered. While hope is a good thing, we often fail to realize that the tiny divide between a “before” shot and an “after” is where the real story is. In that tiny line lies the sweat, the tears, the backsliding, the frustration, the joy, the camaraderie, the fist-pumping victories – all of it.

Right there.

In that tiny line. 

Perhaps it’s the writer in me, but I’m more interested in the story of the dividing line.

What brought a person from there to here? How long before they realized that they had the power to run that race? Do those pull ups unassisted? Get up the nerve to not hide behind the camera? When did they start to realize their worth?  When did they reach that seemingly unattainable goal? When did they start to feel better? When did their spouse tell them they were proud of them? When did they realize that fitness is about so much more than just bodies?

That’s the story.

That’s where life is.

The Mental Weight Room

A while ago we were prompted to discuss confidence and describe the things at which we excel. It was a hard post to write in that describing fears and humility can sometimes come off as false, or at worst fishing for compliments. Barf. That’s so not my intention.  I do wonder, though – do we ever totally have confidence? Do we ever arrive? Do we ever just get it? “I’ve got this and life is splendid!” My theory is probably not. There’s always something more to do, more ways to stretch ourselves, and areas where we feel inadequate.

My most recent experience in having courage to take scary steps to confidence is at the gym. Oh the gym! It’s such a weird and wonderful place! There are so many great things about the gym, things that make me angry, and many things that make me stifle laughter. (And yes, I still LOVE my online workout program DB4L!) In every gym I’ve been in, there are different sections that have a sort of unspoken rule about where you go and where you don’t. In my gym (and, honestly, in my head more than reality) these sections are as follows:

The Zumba/Step/Group Cardio Room

Always blasting awesome, thumping music, the Zumba folk go straight from the front desk and/or the childcare drop off area and head right for their class. No stops, no eye contact – straight in. Dance and step cardio only people!

The Cycle Room

25 stationary bicycles, music, speakers and sweat. Duh. My home away from home. *Sigh* I love this place!

The Women’s Only Workout Room

A bank of elliptical machines and treadmills line the wall, with the resistance training machines along the opposite wall with mirrors. There is one squat rack, some dumbbells, stability balls, etc. Most of the machines are older models, refurbished or are missing parts. Why do the women get the crap machines? There are plenty of tools to get the job done, but it leaves a bit to be desired. But what do we care, we’re just reading our magazine on the elliptical anyway. (Yeah, that was sarcasm.)

The Dark Cardio Room

Introvert central! My other happy place. Dark lighting, rows of state of the art treadmills and elliptical machines and you don’t have to interact with anyone! YAY! This room says, “Leave me alone. Let me do my thing. In and out and get it done.” No mirrors in this room so no having to watch people posing for selfies!

The Weight Room

Dominated by males mostly. Lots of ear buds, workout drinks, free weights, not-so-subtle selfies, weight plates clacking and crashing together, and grunting. Occasional swearing. Lots of “Hey bro” kind of talk. People checking out other people. (I live in a college/military town – it’s gonna happen.)  It makes me laugh. But it intimidates me, too.

Every week I eye that free weight area. I salivate over the opportunity to have the courage to walk over there like I own the place and do my thing. Instead, into the women’s only gym I go and do my workout in there. WHY?!

Despite losing 50 pounds (and relapsing and re-losing!), logging countless miles, doing crazy workouts, traveling and paying to do insane mud runs, completing a marathon, and no matter how many fitness certifications earned, I still have trouble believing in my capabilities.  In my head, I’m still the overweight mom that is tired by walking up stairs, that fears she won’t be able to keep up with her kids. I don’t look like a fitness model so I don’t belong in that weight room. I’m the one who wants to be a trainer, but I know I don’t ‘look’ like a trainer. Will anyone even take me seriously?

It’s another one of those let’s stick our foot in the face of fear and just do this already moments.

After arguing with myself, I took a deep breath, went in with workout in hand and did my deal. While outwardly, it was highly anticlimactic, but in my mind? Yeah, in-the-air-heel clicks and fist pumps all dang day! I mentally high-fived myself all over the place! I did deadlifts, back rows, climbed on the assisted pull up machine (unassisted pull ups are on my bucket list!) triceps, planks, hip thrusts – I did everything I had planned and then some! I OWNED that weight room.

I. did. it.

Yeah, the ‘bros’ were in abundance in all their selfie-taking, grunting glory. Smiling, I looked myself in the eye. None of my mental b.s. matters. It’s time to end the struggle in the mental weight room and get out and play in the real one.

I’m gaining strength. Results are coming. I’m seeing muscle mass increases. I’m learning. I’m teaching. I have a voice in this field and I have every right to stand in my own confidence and own this. 

Old vs. New

It has been a crazy couple of weeks getting settled and unpacked!! Went for an icy bike ride with the kiddos today and am gearing up for working out in the morning bootcamp style with my mom and sister!

Over the past week or so I’ve noticed some astonishing differences being back in my hometown area as the new me vs. the old.

Eric has done deployments before, and while they stink – doing them with kiddos is just a whole other level of suckiness. However, before I would have been terrified of the responsibility of two kids on my own. Now, though – yes it sucks and I would much rather have him home, the fear is no longer there. I know some days are going to be better than others, but the terror has been replaced by an acceptance and a sense of “Yeah. I got this. I’m not going to sit around and be sad. We are going to make the best of it and have a life and not just sit around waiting for Daddy to come home.” This is huge.

I meet peoples’ gaze and am the first to wave or smile and say hello. This is such a seemingly small thing – but huge for me. Old me would wait for others to approach me or make the first move. Not so much anymore. And everyone in our new neighborhood has been so friendly. For some reason I don’t remember the valley being so friendly… But perhaps I’m just seeing it with new vision 😉

Went shopping yesterday for winter clothes for my new body and had a blast with a good friend. Old me never let thin friend into dressing room. New me: fashion show parade in the room!!!
Lots of laughs, catching up and cute new clothes that I’ve worked so hard for. And I didn’t even charge her for the tickets to the gun show! 😉

Going to church and watching my mom watch me and seeing her see the differences in dropping off the kiddos at Children’s Church. She even remarked at how dropping the kids off was “something you would have never done before”. The kids have a great time, get to interact and play and learn with other kids and I get a much needed mental break and spiritual recharge for the week. Win win!!

I have scheduled a test date for taking my certified personal trainer exam. NEVER would I have thought I was good enough, athletic enough, or whatever excuse to do something like this. And I find all I feel is excited!!! Yeah, a little nervous because I want to do well and not have to retake the thing – but mostly just excited! I can’t wait to help someone else to feel as good as I do. I can’t think of anything better.

Instead of waiting until __________ , I am getting out and making things happen. I’m more proactive. This is partially due to wishing I had found bootcamp and done it sooner. I don’t want to miss any opportunities in our new location. Hit the ground running baby!!!

It’s just a bunch of little things like this that in the past week or so have been very apparent to me.

I can appreciate old me. She got me to here. But new me is way more fun, has so much more energy and is comfortable in her own skin. And I love that!